Let me list the number of things that don’t exactly appeal to me: dainty dials, pastel-colored straps, butterflies, jewel-encrusted watches; more classical and conservative themes that brands tell us are what women love. But while at Baselworld this year, turning over yet another beautiful but overly feminine creation, I wondered if I was the exception. It may be that maisons have long stopped treating ladies’ timepieces as an afterthought but when it came to truly making styles we’d love to wear, it seemed like many kept missing the mark.
It was then that I decided to ask, not the brand representatives, but the people the watches are made for: what do women want? To this end, I created a survey and sent it to women I knew were watch lovers and asked them what they would honestly like to see more of in the market. The women I surveyed typically own between one to ten watches and were aged between 25 to 50. Through this survey, I hoped to find out what real women actually like when it comes to watches, and if their preferences align with what the brands tell us. At least, I hoped, I would find out if I’m not alone in my indifference to mother-of-pearl and floral motifs.
Drum Roll Please
We’re not surprised to find that women want a mechanical watch, with over 80 per cent of the respondents saying it mattered that a watch was fitted with a mechanical movement over a quartz movement. They also had a preference over what type of mechanical movement. Overwhelmingly, 87 per cent of the respondents preferred an automatic movement over a manual-wind. We’re also not surprised to find watch design ranked as an extremely important factor, a point that is perhaps universal because a watch can have all the most amazing innovations but it will still be unwearable if it aesthetically did not appeal.
And then here is where it gets interesting. When it came to gem-setting on a watch, 50 per cent of respondents were neutral; 6 per cent found it not very important and 44 per cent of them said it was not important at all. Responses were mixed when it came to precious metals. 44 per cent of respondents said it was quite important; others were neutral to it or simply found it not important.
What then, is important? What catches our eye if not the glint of diamond on the watch dial?
“A brand’s heritage, its aesthetic and a lack of outward and forced femininity,” one answers.
“Attention to detail in the design, a story behind the line and something classic and timeless,” says another.
We ladies want more than just the prestige of a brand name. We want to buy into the authenticity of a brand, and knowing that whatever we end up purchasing retains its value, not just in the sense of investment, but in knowing that it’s something we can wear on any occasion; that it will remain timeless and not look dated in the next decade; and that it is potentially something we can pass onto our children, and it’ll in turn be something they will treasure and wear.
On one last note, it’s the 21st century and labels are unnecessary. Watch brands have traditionally categorized their collections into men’s and women’s, essentially making assumptions about what women like and what they should be buying, but this shouldn’t be the case anymore. Women aren’t drawn to collections that are specifically targeted to them anymore and are more likely than ever to browse through a brand’s other collections. In fact, one-fourth of the respondents say they are not likely to look at ladies’ collections at all. On the other hand, nearly half of the respondents say they will consider collections that are labeled as men’s.
So, there you have it. What modern women want in a watch is actually quite simple. Robust, thoughtful movements, with a case design strong enough to transcend the ages, no frills needed. We’re neither delicate nor fragile, and we don’t expect our watches to be either. And now, here are the watches that speak to us.
Rolex Day-Date 36
In the survey, we also asked for the ladies to tell us their favorite brands and Rolex and Audemars Piguet won by a mile. And if there’s one collection launched this year that is as well beloved by women as men, it is the Rolex Day-Date 36. When the Rolex Day-Date launched in 1956, it quickly became the symbol of a successful man, the ultimate status watch, earning its nickname as “The President’s Watch” after being spotted on the wrists of several US presidents.
The original Day-Date was touted as a man’s watch and at 36mm, it was considered to be on the large side. In 2008 in response to changing trends, Rolex introduced the Day-Date II in 41mm, which was then reduced slightly to 40mm in 2015. This year, the Day-Date is back to its original 36mm. With its new array of colors and dial variations, it’s clear the collection is meant to make the ladies take a second look without explicitly saying so. With Rolex, you’re also sure of the robustness of its movements. The Day-Date 36 is equipped with the new automatic caliber 3255 that comes with the brand’s patented Chronergy escapement. Thanks to the escapement and a new barrel architecture, the power reserve lasts up to 70 hours.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold
Here’s an instance where Audemars Piguet got it so right, we see our gender roles reversed. Men clamoring for a watch made for women in mind. Can you imagine that? The Frosted Gold Royal Oak was created in collaboration with jewelry designer Carolina Bucci for the 40th anniversary of the women’s Royal Oak collection in 2018. And the visionary that she is, Bucci reinvented the icon by not adding or subtracting anything from the watch. Instead, she altered the surface of the gold to make it shimmer in the light, using an ancient craft called the Florentine technique to modernize the watch and give us a new perspective on the Royal Oak collection.
The partnership was continued and Audemars Piguet delivered the Royal Oak Frosted Gold Carolina Bucci Limited Edition. This time, the familiar “Tapisserie” dial is removed; in its place is a shiny, silver-toned mirror that is framed by the sparkle of the Frosted Gold case. Again, Bucci was able to grab our attention and adoration without a single diamond flourish, we love it because it’s different, a little rebellious, and extremely contemporary.
And of course, the men got what they wanted too. Gauging from the raging success of the Frosted Gold, the shimmering gold design was included in other models this year, like the Royal Oak Frosted Gold Double Balance Wheel Openworked and the Frosted Gold Selfwinding Chronograph, both in 41mm.
With the launch of the all-new Baignoire and Panthère de Cartier collections this year, Cartier is affirming its dedication to the feminine watch market. Why we love the brand as much as we do boils down to one point: design is its greatest strength and we unanimously agree that design is perhaps the biggest factor that impacts our choices when we walk into the shop.
And there really is no other like Cartier when it comes to watch designs. So many of Cartier’s collections have managed to transcend the ages, turning generations upon generations into loyalists, with watches that still manage to look fresh and contemporary today as they did when they first launched.
The Cartier Tank is living proof that superior designs do stand the test of time—it remains virtually unchanged 100 years after its launch. The Tank was born from the Renault FT-17 war tanks in 1917; the Baignoire’s inspiration was a much more commonplace object. Its inspiration, and name, comes from the humble bathtub. It is the utter sophistication and elegance in the design of the Baignoire that captivates us, as does Cartier’s enthusiasm in taking this already iconic shape and reinventing it, keeping it modern while never sacrificing on its integrity.
Coco Chanel has always stood for the power of women with her penchant for defying stereotypes and social conventions. She made pantsuits for women at a time when no one else did and her bold outlook continues to influence Chanel’s designers today, be it fashion or watches. The J12 watch, designed in the 2000s by then artistic director Jacques Helleu, is one such empowering timepiece that has found favor amongst women. Funny thing was, Helleu didn’t even design the watch with women in mind, he designed the watch for himself, drawing from his own passion for automobiles and sailing. Even the name of the watch itself, J12, comes from the America’s Cup racing class J12.
It is this lack of assumed femininity that we love about the J12. This year, the watch has been thoughtfully revamped by Arnaud Chastaingt, Director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio, who set aside his creative ego to improve on the design of the J12, honoring Helleu’s work but not changing it. The new J12 now has a one-piece ceramic case, in black or white, equipped with a sapphire caseback so the new automatic Caliber 12.1 can be admired. The sleek-looking caliber, the first movement from the new Kenissi manufacture created exclusively for Chanel, features a tungsten oscillating weight that is open-worked into a perfect circle, a little porthole into the inner workings of this iconic watch.
Richard Mille RM 07-02 Gem-Set Colored Sapphire
I’ve always thought that Richard Mille was ahead of the curve. Few try as hard as it does to make a different product for women that is just as technically capable as the larger men’s pieces, while embodying things that the contemporary woman loves. When artistic director Cécile Guenat was designing the RM 71-01 Automatic Winding Tourbillon Talisman for example, she was inspired by her love of sci-fi films, art deco architecture and ancient African art.
And in recent years, the ladies’ timepieces are really where Richard Mille has been excelling. For one, the brand is aware that gold has lost its pride of place in its gem-set ceramic and Carbon TPT watches. And it knew it needed a new approach: enter colored sapphire. The result is the Gem-Set Sapphire RM 07-02, machined out of a giant block of sapphire that is carefully selected to achieve the exact tone of pink, green or electric blue. To set stones on the sapphire case is yet another feat of real engineering, requiring a laser operating to the nearest micrometer to mount a delicate row of stones.
The new case also highlights a skeletonised movement, in micro-blasted grey gold for the blue sapphire version and comes with an ornamental stone dial. This might be the rare few times mother-of-pearl doesn’t irk me; thoughtfully used only to highlight the real cutting-edge technology present in the timepiece.
MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Don’t roll your eyes just yet—this new MB&F masterpiece is near impossible to get now, but it’s just the beginning of something new and we’re sure we’ll see more variations of this fantastic watch later. The Legacy Machine FlyingT is Max Busser’s first foray into making a watch dedicated to women, and boldly, he chose not to consult women, not even his wife, on the design of it.
But then again, when did a watch have to be designed by a woman in order to ensure its success? The J12, like we mentioned earlier, was Helleu’s selfish creation, but it was his pride and joy, and it was beautiful. The same philosophy stands here. Busser created a watch for himself, and three-dimensional sculptural kinetic art pieces that tell the time is something he believes in. The FlyingT is audacious, it’s also elegant and inspired. Instead of taking a more co-planar approach to movement construction, the FlyingT utilizes a vertical and co-axial approach to create a cinematic flying tourbillon, projecting upwards beyond the dial-plate to showcase all its moving parts in all its glory. Women don’t need a dumbed-down version of anything, and this is why we love this watch.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic
Our founder Wei Koh once asked me what my favorite watch was and I blurted out, “The Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas,” instantly panicked, fearing it wasn’t the answer he was looking for but he assured me it was a fantastic choice. I still have a soft spot for the Serpenti, but to me the watch is still more jewelry than watch. What is all-watch is the Bulgari Octo Finissimo, a watch made for men but which women can pull off with ease, as exhibited by Revolution Hong Kong’s March 2018 cover star, American actress and model Laura Harrier.
The Octo Finissimo collection has broken five world records thus far, the latest being the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic, which currently is the thinnest mechanical chronograph in history. The thinness of the watch, at only 6.9mm, is an incredible feat, almost unheard of in the rest of the industry. The whole collection, and not just this ultra-thin chronograph, is extremely well-received by the ladies too, not just the men, who find the appeal in having a highly complicated timepiece that doesn’t look out of place on our slimmer wrists. The all-new caliber BVL 318 powers the movement and can be admired from the transparent sapphire case back. The signature angular case in sand-blasted titanium, coupled with a matching dial and bracelet, gives the watch a distinct, chic and minimalist look that we can all get behind.
IWC Portofino 34
During the 1980s, IWC was known for its sporty SL Collection and Porsche Design watches, but in 1984, a new product family was born: the IWC Portofino, named after the idyllic Italian coastal destination that was popular amongst the jet-set in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Portofino was born from a clever idea to turn a Lépine pocket moon phase watch into a wristwatch, but the brand saw its potential to become something extremely successful and set about building a dress watch collection around it that would appeal to both men and women looking for an understated and versatile watch.
So yes, the Portofino had always been a unisex collection, and whilst IWC is primarily known for its bigger watch sizes, the inaugural launch of the Portofino included a range of sizes, even one of just 25mm in 18k yellow gold. For 2019, IWC reduced the the classic Portofino to 34mm; the Portofino 34 is the smallest case size the brand has created in the past decade. More exciting models include the new Portofino Automatic Moon Phase, in 40mm stainless steel, with either a silver-plated dial or a blue dial.